Aberedw Hill

The morning of what I would later consider the first real day of summer starts with a clap of thunder, not quite close enough for the fizz and crackle of the lightning but loud enough to rattle the windows. Within seconds, the house comes alive with the sound of rain.

By mid-afternoon, the weather is still making a nuisance of itself as I sit impatiently in the car, waiting for another heavy shower to pass.

A little while back, I stumbled across a Fay Godwin image from The Drovers Roads of Wales: an expansive view across the Wye valley from the bracken-clad slopes of Aberedw Hill. This morning, the map practically falls open there and so I find myself sat in the car a few miles outside of Builth Wells, wondering if I’ve wasted my time and whether the rain is set in for the afternoon. Eventually I decide it’s time to chance it.

The sun makes a reappearance as I pick my way up a green lane running in rivulets. The air is stifling and the trickling runnels flow between stones that still radiate the heat of hours in the sun, a hearthstone warmth despite the downpour. Further up, a track makes its way on to the open hillside, and with it comes a welcome breeze, driving rainstorms across the landscape, pools of light and shadow under the convecting cumulus.

The view starts to open out, a dramatic sweep of the Wye valley. To the south lies Pen y Fan and to the west I can make out the distinctive summit cairns of Drygarn Fawr, which I last visited on Boxing Day last year, in foul weather.

A few years ago, on an afternoon of Constable skies, I filled a watering can from the water butt. As I picked it up, the sloshing weight caught me by surprise and a sky that had seemed so weightless and ethereal took on a new reality. Expanding for miles above me—an impossible mass of water, suspended in air. And I felt small.

My daydream is interrupted by a distant rumble of thunder. The Drygarn cairns are no longer visible, obscured by a dark veil of rain that is now starting to cover the valley. The first big raindrops arrive as I get back to the car, and as the valley descends into gloom, I’m pleased to have got back without a soaking.

The twilight world

It seems strange to be writing a post like this so early in the year but the recent warm weather has got me thinking about summer. Stepping out of the door this morning, the stillness of the pre-dawn air rekindled a memory from last year—almost dreamlike in its strangeness—of walking through Tenby at 3am, a camera bag over my shoulder, the streets filled with seagulls picking at chip wrappers in the half light.

I could see myself taking on an almost nocturnal existence during the summer months, if I didn’t need to earn money. In many ways I’m not exactly enamoured of long summer days but the evenings can be magical; as too can the hour before dawn, where the landscape often takes on a subtle and characteristic radiance. There is a beauty in the lighter half of the year, but it is unfortunate that it so often falls outside of our normal waking hours.